Patriots

O'Neal makes most of time on court

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O'Neal makes most of time on court

BOSTON Jermaine O'Neal left the floor early in Boston's 81-73 win over Toronto, a scene that has never had a happy ending for him or the Celtics.

Not to worry, Celtics Nation.

O'Neal having a limited role on Wednesday was part of the game plan coming in, according to Celtics head coach Doc Rivers.

"I told Jermaine before the game that we were going to play Greg (Stiemsma) a lot," Rivers said. "We're going to try and get (Chris) Wilcox in that one little stretch in the second half. So I told him he wasn't going to play a lot."

But even with his minutes limited, there was no mistaking the impact that he made on defense.

O'Neal played less than 12 minutes, but still racked up four blocked shots and as well as a charge.

"His blocked shots, his timing, they're just amazing," Rivers said. "He looks great. What you saw is what he's been all camp. You rarely see a guy that blocks shots and takes charges. He does both. that's just unusual."

Celtics guard Keyon Dooling played with the Milwaukee Bucks last season, and said he considers Bucks center Andrew Bogut as a player like O'Neal in terms of having the ability to block shots and draw charges.

Still, Dooling recognizes that players who excel at both are rare.

"It's awesome to have guys like JO at this point in their career," Dooling said. "Where he understands the game, he understands his body, he understands what he can and can't do. He led our team in the preseason with charges. That's something that's very undervalued in our league, and that's points in the paint that he's taking away. He's going to be very important, especially with our lack of a lot of size."

Dooling added, "It really does something special for you team when you have a guy at the rim who can not only block shots but take charges, given the opportunity. It definitely brings an added dimension for us."

Backes and Bergeron return to Bruins practice, may be back in action soon

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Backes and Bergeron return to Bruins practice, may be back in action soon

BRIGHTON -- It was good news when word first filtered out that David Backes had resumed skating last weekend while the Bruins were on the West Coast, and even better news Tuesday when he returned to practice. Backes skated without any restrictions in a spot on the third line with Riley Nash and Tim Schaller, and appeared to be recovering nicely from his bout of diverticulitis.

Backes was initially diagnosed with the inflammatory colon ailment in the first few days of October, with the team estimating a three- to four-week recovery period. If he'd needed surgery rather than the  prescribed rest and medication, he could have been facing a lot more missed games.

Patrice Bergeron was also back skating on Tuesday morning while centering Brad Marchand and Anders Bjork, still sporting a maroon no-contact jersey while taking some light contact during the practice session.

Backes and Bergeron look like they’ could be returning to the lineup soon.

But the injury news wasn't all good, as Ryan Spooner, Austin Czarnik, Danton Heinen and Adam McQuaid were all missing from practice.

Spooner (lower body) and McQuaid (lower body) were both injured in Sunday night’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, and Czarnik and/or Heinen might be ticketed back to Providence soon if the Bruins have to make roster space for Bergeron and/or Backes ahead of Thursday night’s home game against the Vancouver Canucks.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings from Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena with a whole different look to things with some of the different bodies taking part in the skate:

Marchand-Bergeron-Bjork
DeBrusk-Krejci-Pasta
Schaller-Nash-Backes
Beleskey-Kuraly-Vatrano
White

Chara-Carlo
Miller-McAvoy
Krug-Postma

Rask
Khudobin